Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

The Internet of Things as a Tool for Inclusion and Equality

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

The Internet of Things as a Tool for Inclusion and Equality

Article excerpt

                              TABLE OF CONTENTS  I.INTRODUCTION                                        104 II.THE INTERNET OF THINGS AND PRIVACY                 104 III.THE INTERNET OF THINGS AND INCLUSION              106       A. For people who are visually impaired         106       B. For people with mobility-related limitation  107       C. For people who are hearing impaired          107       D. For older adults and the elderly             107       E. For those with health concerns               108       F. For the infirm                               108       G. For the economically disadvantaged           109       H. For farmers in rural communities             109       I. Improving Interoperability and Access        109 IV.EMERGING INDUSTRY STANDARDS AND NORMS              110       A. Wearables                                    110       B. "Always Ready" Home Devices                  114 V.CONCLUSION                                          117 


In the next decade, a critical issue for policymakers and regulators will be the advancement and growing ubiquity of cyber-physical systems, or the Internet of Things (IoT). Consumer-facing IoT systems are already delivering benefits to consumers and society. (1) IoT can also be a powerful tool for inclusion and equality, enabling accessibility for many who have traditionally encountered hardship or exclusion because of physical disabilities or other limitations. Through creative forms of notice and flexible application of the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs), policymakers and regulators can find meaningful ways to protect data privacy while promoting beneficial innovation.


As a threshold matter, not all systems in the Internet of Things (IoT) implicate privacy. While many IoT systems are directly consumer facing, many have little or no connection to individuals. For example, an oil company may install sensors to monitor an Alaskan pipeline, (2) a power generation company may use sensors to predict and avoid potential power failures, (3) and an industrial vendor may collect data from jet engines to monitor the environmental impact of aircraft (4)--all examples of machine-to-machine (M2M) connections that do not collect or reveal information about individuals. (5) Policies aimed towards consumer protection must first distinguish between consumer and non-consumer uses of connected devices if they are to avoid unduly affecting beneficial industrial uses of those devices.

Nonetheless, many IoT systems do involve data from or about individuals. Information networks created by IoT promise a wide array of consumer benefits, including improvements in healthcare, efficient traffic management, public safety, convenience, environmental protection, and business innovation. (6) These benefits are enabled when industry is able to layer applications on top of connected devices to create a network of smart systems. Maximizing such benefits necessarily requires collecting, retaining, and sharing information in new ways. Information sharing on the scale generated by IoT implicates privacy risks and security concerns that have not been traditionally associated with consumer devices, such as household items and personal vehicles. (7)

In addition to legal and regulatory frameworks, business-developed standards designed to address security and privacy issues are necessary to ensure that IoT achieves its full potential. If there are lax controls or insufficient oversight of the collection of personal information through connected devices, consumers will lose trust in the evolving technologies. In the words of European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the EU Digital Agenda, the industry "cannot innovate in a bubble if citizens are not coming along for the journey." (8)

The Internet of Things raises new issues for the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs), which have long provided the foundation of consumer privacy protection in this country and embody core privacy values. …

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